Traveling Parent


My career in science helps me find cool experiences for my daughter.
My career in science helps me find cool experiences for my daughter.
Recently I traveled to Raleigh, NC, for an “unconference” dedicated to the various aspects of scientific communication. It was a dynamic gathering of the very best science writers, science journalists, science educators, scientists who blog, NASA tweeters and others experienced in science social media. The conference, ScienceOnline 2013, was held at North Carolina State University. In addition to the participants at the meeting, satellite “watch parties” were held across the globe, and the twitter hashtag, #scio13, trended during the event.

Sessions included great things like “putting the STEAM in STEM” (adding the arts ito science, technology, engineering and mathematics), “what can science writers learn from genre fiction”, discussions of video games for science learning, open source data sharing and publishing, and many other things. We even learned how to join a Google+ hangout, and hang out, literally, with the moon.

It was an exciting conference, full of potential and great ideas for my own work both professionally and as a freelance writer. However running in the background of these absorbing sessions and awesome conversations in the café (in which the participants consumed 15 gallons of coffee per hour—it was a charged conference), was the knowledge that my little girl was home with a fever and cold. It wasn’t anything more than the usual winter illness shared among school children, and her dad knew just what was needed, but I still felt bad about not being there: Not being there to comfort her; not being there to help my husband.

Career and mother came together on a collision course for me last week. There are people among my acquaintance, though not many, who would say “See, I told you so. Moms should stay home”. They would be wrong because my husband did a phenomenal job taking care of my daughter. By the time I got home the fever-reducer regimen was well established, and the humidifiers were going.

Others whom I know, and there are more of them, would say, “I don’t know why not being home bothers you. You’re a professional role model for your daughter. You should be setting an example, not worrying about not being at home.”
They would be wrong too. I am a mom, and my daughter is my priority, over career, over job. At the same time, part of her being a priority includes me having a career that can support her interests and create opportunities for her as she gets older.

I need to be a role model for my daughter—a role model of how to make good decisions. She needs to know that when I travel professionally, I am weighing it against the responsibilities I have at home as a spouse and mother. She needs to know that when I take time off work to attend a school program in the middle of the work day, I am weighing it against the responsibilities of my employment—against the responsibilities that bring in the paycheck and extra benefits that come from having a second income in the family. And she needs to know that no matter where I am and what I am doing, I am thinking of her and will come when needed.

The conflict of work versus home for moms and dads will always be there as we struggle to raise our children in the most loving and caring environments possible, while providing the most opportunity possible. It’s a delicate balance modeling responsibility in home- and work-life for our children. It’s not easy, but the one certain thing I have learned about parenting is just that—it isn’t easy.

© 2013 Michele Arduengo All rights reserved.

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